Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Revisiting Yellowstone

I LOVE Yellowstone.. I had the pleasure of work camping in Yellowstone a few years ago and make it a point to return every year. I still find that after my 5 month stint and yearly visits that I have not come close to seeing all there is to see in this 2.2 million acre park. Though my visit this year was way too short, it was a brought back pleasant memories of beautiful flowers, waterfalls, critter watching, beautiful sunsets over the lake and watching geysers explode into the air or slowly bubble and steam.

I find it interesting at how many folks go to Yellowstone, see Old Faithful and the Lower Falls in a one day tour and believe they 'have seen' the park. In my opinion to truly begin to see this park, you have to get off of the tour bus route, take a hike .. even a short one and spend some time away from the crowds. That is where you find the true beauty of one of the most remarkable places in North America.

Yellowstone is truly the gem of our National Park system. It has mountains, rivers, streams, lakes, waterfalls, geysers, mud pots, steam vents, grassland, forest, foot hills, bears, birds, bison, wolves, pronghorn and more. I don't know of anyplace else that boasts that kind of diversity. I hope to one day 'see it all' .... something to shoot for I guess, over my next 20 years.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Hanging out in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado

The San Juan Mountains are a part of the Rocky Mountains in SW Colorado. I am hanging in the area around Silverton, Ouray & Telluride. This is a beautiful part of the country. Beautiful enough that even as a full-time Rver, I take note of the properties for sale in the region every time I come here. I do try to come here often. This is one of few places that I could settle and be content .. as long as I had a jeep. This is jeeping country. There are 100's of miles of jeeping roads in the San Juans that offer breathtaking views of flowers, waterfalls and peaks as for as the eye can see. Of course, hiking is big as well and probably a quicker route to the top sometimes than negotiating some of the roads.

Silverton is an old mining town with a lots of tales to tell of boom & bust and all that goes with its mining past. The Durango-Silverton rail passengers descend upon the town everyday close to noon to shop the stores, explore the mining history and have some lunch. It's always a good idea to hit your lunch spot in Silverton (and they do have a variety of choices) before the train arrives. Many of the jeep roads start outside of Silverton. The ghost town of Animas Forks can be reached by passenger car from town but you wouldn't want to go much further or on many of the travels leading off this 10 -12 mile jot back into the mountains without a 4wd high clearance vehicle. The 4wd Alpine Scenic Loop road that goes over Engineer pass and Cinnamon pass is probably the most popular.

Telluride is much more your upscale little mountain town. It boosts a ski resort, great outdoor music festivals and is surrounded by million dollar homes. I was able to lend a hand doing dry wall in home in the area that was going for $11 million a few years back. In town you find an eclectic mix of folks .. from old hippy's, to millionaires to joe blow tourist .. they get the gamut. There is hiking and jeeping in this area as well. The notorious expert only Black Bear Road 4wd winds it way down the mountain face of the box canyon at the south end of town. Imogene 4wd road takes you through some very scenic country between Telluride and Ouray. The ski resort Gondola also runs during the summer months, taking you to the top of Mt. Sophia which offers great views of the town below.

Between Silverton and Telluride is the town of Ouray, aka Little Switzerland of America. Ouray is surrounded by a high amphitheater of peaks, main street has some nice shops and they are several jeep tour companies based out of here. Yankee Boy Basin is a nice jeep road that starts near the south end of town. It also has hot springs, a few of the motels give you access to the hot springs, there is a large public hot springs pool to play in as well. My favorite is the Orvis Hot Springs, which is a clothing optional, natural hot springs pool surrounded by flowers north of town. I do find dusk and night time to be the best time to go for a soak there. :-)

I would be remiss in not mentioning the scenic San Juan Scenic Byway loop that goes from Silverton, Ouray, Telluride & down to Durango and back. It includes the Million Dollar highway section between Silverton and Ouray. It is a beautiful drive especially when the aspen's turn golden in the fall.

Every season in this area has something to offer but the one thing that is consistent throughout the year is that these mountains are beautiful!


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